Dead institutions walking.

This reads like a radical anti-egalitarian manifesto by some young, smart but inexperienced Internet-based firebrand. Wikipedia is way cool! Universities are dead institutions walking! We’ll all learn off the web! Social networks will replace campuses! You know the sort of thing.

Then I got to the end and my jaw dropped when I saw what the author does for a living. Try to read the article without skipping to the end, scrolling down carefully without jumping ahead, it’s worth it.

So. What do we do to distinguish experts from non-experts when we no longer even have credentials as a marker of expertise? (e.g. there’s not a vast reserve of commercial positions for pure philosophers.)

I wonder if Lord Browne has heard about this yet.

7 thoughts on “Dead institutions walking.”

  1. The author is chancellor of a second-tier institution that adds very little value to a textbbok, lecture videos, and term tests.

    Top-tier institutions interact with their students: lectures are live performances, not dry recitals; tutorials and practicals are a powerful tool of handcrafted education – intense, challenging, a two-way interation. More, if the tutorial is an effective group session.

    Education is about learning, thinking and doing; institutions that do these interactions effectively may do quite well online, as a supplement to their face-to-face work – and the Open University is a limit case, with its Summer School fitting all the face-time into a few sshort weeks.

    Institutions that do no more than drone at their students and test their information-retention are, of course, doomed; if there’s no added value over the course notes, it’s a no-brainer to go to the internet and start with better course notes… Which are, of course, derived from better corses and richer interactions with the students.

  2. UNE may not be a top-tier institution, but it’s not an unrespectable one in any way at all, and a degree from UNE is as well worth having as, e.g., one from the Open University.

    Or are you saying that only top-tier universities will exist in the near future? Analogous to professional football, where them whats has gets has been the rule for a while.

    This is the businessman who runs the place, a respectable mid-tier university, saying “Golly gosh, chaps, we’re buggered.” Are you actually disagreeing that this is significant?

  3. I may well be saying something worse: the top tier will soar away in a ‘premier league’ that provides education to a privileged few, and a ‘third tier’ will use the efficiency of the internet to cut costs and expand the scale of a business that is, at base, an information transfer.

    Who will be left in the middle? Will there even be a middle?

    The second-tier will be left with the job of conferring the status of a ‘proper university’ degree on the hopeful middle classes without the resources to add interaction and intellectual development tothe transmission of mere information. And this will be a precarious existence: it might not be a viable economic niche.

  4. He’s in a position to potentially change conditions where students can’t collaborate and where the lecture is the dominant mode of instruction, at least for one university. Why not do that, instead of waffling on about Wikipedia?

    (Also, of course, he overlooks how much of Wikipedia is written by underemployed PhDs that are the very products of his lecture-only institutions. Knowledge is more than just regurgitation of data.)

  5. As I commented on the foundation-l mailing list, what goes on in academia and what goes on in Wikipedia have very little connection. Wikipedia has essentially put the low-paid newly-qualifed graduates who work in ‘traditional’ encyclopedias out of a job, and so has contributed to the current unemployment. It cannot replace the main job of a university, which is producing research (primary sources), educational material (secondary sources) and teaching people. Wait, oh! there is Wikiversity! Ha ha.

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